After decades of discrimination, Yezidis allowed to own property in Shigur, Iraq

SHIGUR, Iraq — After 47 years, the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammed Shia’ Sabbar al-Sudani and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a joint statement confirming the Iraqi government’s decree affirming the rights of the Yezidis’ to land ownership in Shigur (Shengal/Sinjar) District in Iraq.

Since 1975, discriminatory laws in Shigur in Nineveh Plains have prevented thousands of Yezidi families from owning their homes.

On December 27, the Council of Ministers issued a resolution that is a step toward providing Yezidis with a thorough answer about land ownership.

The decision allows the Yezidis to own property in Khansur, Dokri, Burke, Kohel, Zor Ava, Dhola, Tal Qasab, Siba, Sheikh Khudri, and other areas in the Shigur and Nineveh.

Prime Minister al-Sudani stated:

“The Iraqi government’s decision to grant Yazidi Iraqis ownership of their houses in Sinjar, which they have been deprived of for more than 47 years due to the unjust exclusionary policies by the former dictatorial regime, comes in the context of the Iraqi government’s clear and explicit endeavour, to protect the rights of the Iraqi components, especially the beloved Yazidi community in Sinjar and the Ninewa.”

Ms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq and Head of UNAMI, welcomed the crucial decision to grant thousands of Yezidis security of tenure with regard to their housing, land, and property rights. “The decree constitutes an official recognition of the ownership of their lands and houses, ends decades of discrimination, and will hopefully ease and encourage the return of Yazidis to Ninewa,” she stated.

Executive Director of UN-Habitat Maimunah Mohd Sharif praised the endorsement of the decree by the Council of Ministers, saying that:

“This step by the Government is promising and encouraging as it promotes access to land rights for vulnerable populations in Iraq and creates great momentum for residents in Sinjar townships to have land rights for the first time. UN-Habitat will continue to support the government of Iraq and different institutions to facilitate the registration of land rights and to formalize the occupancy certificates issued by UN-Habitat into full land ownership titles.”

UN-Habitat has been addressing the land and property rights of Yezidi community in Shigur since 2018, recording more than 14,500 claims and granting land occupancy certificates.

Calls for Autonomy in Nineveh

The announcement of the decree allowing Yezidis to own property in Shigur comes amid increased calls for greater — or complete — autonomy for Nineveh Plains.

In November 2022, the Christian Front of Lebanon organized the Christians of the East Congress in Beirut which saw Christian communities from around the Middle East discuss the current situations of, and recommendations for, their communities. Among the recommendations from the representatives from Iraq was greater autonomy for the communities of Nineveh Plains.

In June, the European Syriac Union (ESU) and Sallux, the official foundation/think tank of the European Christian Political Movement, organized a conference in European Parliament in Brussels to shed light on the cause of the Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian people in Nineveh Plains in Iraq.